I have just been watching the women's team sprint finals, and saw China lose the final race due to a rule infringement. Earlier the Great British team were disqualified for the same reason. There is a set region that one rider has to peel off and let the other pass through.

Despite the commentators' best efforts I still don't understand where this region is marked on the course.

Also I don't understand why there is such a rule at all. The lead rider allows the second rider to draft for the start of the race, so they want to stay in the race as long as they can, but they wouldn't want to stay in until the end. Is there a reason for a fixed change-over zone (e.g. safety), or is it just a rule that's always been part of the sport?


3 Answers 3


The rules for Track Races are here. In the Team Sprint:

The leading rider shall lead the first lap and move towards the outside of the track and then drop back to leave the track without hindering the other team.

In Great Britain's semi-final this is what happened at the end of the first lap:

GB Team Sprint

Jess Varnish (nearest to us in the picture) was the leading rider with Victoria Pendleton as the second rider. Jess Varnish should have lead for the whole of the first lap, unfortunately Victoria Pendleton overtook her before the first lap was completed and they were disqualified.

The same thing happened to the Chinese team in the final.


Hope this helps. The part of the international cycling union regulations about women's team sprint states that

it is a race of 2 laps with 2 riders. Each rider must complete one lap each. The leading rider shall lead the first lap and move towards the outside of the track and the second rider shall complete the second lap on their own.

A team shall be relegated to the last place if any of the following infringements occur.

  • If a rider draws away by more than 15 metres before the end of the lap that she is to lead or
  • if a rider does not draw away by more than 15 metres after the end of the lap that she was supposed to lead or
  • if one rider pushes another.

In the Olympic race the wheels crossed within this 30 metre window so it was deemed that one of the riders (both GB and China) did not complete a whole lap. It is the rule that each rider complete one lap almost exactly down to 30 metres. Surprised it doesn't happen more often at the speed they are going.

  • +1 Thanks - this was really useful. I accepted the other answer as it contained a link to the official rules, which showed me just how many ways there are of determining the fastest cyclist!
    – tttppp
    Commented Aug 6, 2012 at 12:08

I am not an expert in track cycling, so I probably have not understood this properly, but...

The race starts at the Pursuit Line, so surely the 1st lap ends back at the Pursuit Line. The Pursuit Line was a thin white line in this 2012 Olympics race. The GB photo shown above is of the Finish Line (thick white line), which comes after the Pursuit Line. For this sprint race, I don't think the Finish Line is relevant.

The photo shown above clearly shows Jess Varnish sitting up as she passes the Finish Line & Pendleton overtakes her. This is either a huge error on Varnish's part, or she has correctly sat up after racing to the Pursuit Line.

track lines GB start at Pursuit Line

If you look at the BBC images of the Pursuit Line from the GB race & the China race, we can see that Varnish is still clearly ahead of Pendleton at the Pursuit Line (as she should be), whereas the 2 Chinese cyclists are much closer together so there is a case to answer here.

GB Pursuit Line

China Pursuit Line




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